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Murphy O’Connor case. The real story

(Maike Hickson, Stilum Curiae – October 4th, 2018) The Tablet, Great Britain’s progressivist Catholic weekly review, published a report assessing the recently revealed abuse allegations against Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor. It is certain that they  were not properly investigated by his own Archdiocese of Westminster.

Yet, instead of pointing to the failures of due process, The Tabletnow attempts to show that a thorough investigation of the case had taken place already and that the abuse victim was found to be lacking in credibility. At the same time, The Tablet does confirm that, under Pope Francis, the investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has come to an end, thus indirectly confirming Marco Tosatti’s own report that the pope had urgently told Cardinal Gerhard Müller – the Prefect of the CDF – to halt any further investigation. By trying to refute the LifeSiteNews report, The Tabletseems to try to undermine Archbishop Viganòhimself who recently made a reference to this Murphy-O’Connor case. Vatican Insider  has already translated this Tabletarticle into Italian and published it, as well.

“Claims against Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor ‘lacked credibility’” is the title of the 29 September article written by Christopher Lamb. While unspecifically acknowledging that both “Civil and Church authorities investigated abuse allegations against Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor on three occasions,” The Tabletthen claims that “each time they found them lacking in credibility.” Lamb says, with reference to a Catholic Herald  report, that police did not pursue this case further after a thorough investigation.

Additionally, Lamb states that he has evidence that, both in 2011 and in 2013, the CDF ruled against all the allegations. In a June 2011 letter, Cardinal William Levada – then Prefect of the CDF – is said to have written to the Archdiocese of Westminster that “there is no case to answer.” Moreover, in 2013, now under Pope Francis, Cardinal Müller, according to Lamb, came to the “same conclusion as his predecessor.”Lamb thereby affirms that it was Müller himself who closed the case, a fact that concurs with Marco Tosatti’s own report, according to which Pope Francis had told the German cardinal over the phone to do it so.

However, several questions arise from Christopher Lamb’s depiction of the history of the abuse case involving accusations against Murphy-O’Connor.

What Lamb for example omits in his description of the history of this abuse case is that the Diocese of Westminster for years refused to investigate the allegations of the female victim according to the Church protocols. As LifeSiteNews has reported, it was not the Archdiocese of Westminster, but two other dioceses – Portsmouth and Northampton – which filed a case directly with the CDF in 2011. As our well-placed source in England has affirmed, it was not Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster since 2009, who himself instigated the CDF investigation. Only in 2011 – that is, three years after the lady started to claim an involvement of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor himself in her abuse – Nichols finally had his diocesan officials even meet with her in person, but still did not open an investigation. That means that he protectively blocked that investigation for years, during Murphy-O’Connor’s own lifetime (the cardinal died in 2017).

Lamb also does not clearly state why the police decided not to pursue these abuse claims further. It is a false claim to state that the female victim’s claims “were found lacking in credibility.” As the English source told LifeSiteNews with earnest insistence: “The police did not decide that she was not credible, they had not corroborating evidence.” The source added that, had the police not found the victim a credible source, “they would not have investigated the case.” On the contrary, the police took that case so seriously that they interviewed at the time Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor himself “under caution,” which means that they made it clear to him that his answers could be used in court against him.

Thus, the specious claims that are now being published, namely that the police found the victim’s claims to be incredible are actually false. True it is that the police could not find corroborating evidence – which is understandable, since the events took place in the 1960s. But the police never closed the case. The police simply put the case to rest until further evidence or information might surface. They looked for physical evidence and could not find it.

Let us also recount our source’s statement that it was not Cardinal Nichols himself who originally filed the case with the CDF, but, rather, that there were two other dioceses – Northampton and Portsmouth – who filed the case: Bishop Crispian Hollis (Portsmouth, now retired) and Bishop Peter Doyle (Northampton). Bishop Doyle – who was consecrated a bishop by Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor in 2005 – knew the female victim for years and found her a credible person. Otherwise he would not have insisted to the CDF that a proper investigation of her claims should be made. “All people involved [i.e., police, as well as the English bishops filing the case with the CDF] found that the female victim is a credible witness,” the English source explains to LifeSiteNews.

To restate our initial position, one which we still hold: LifeSiteNews does not say that the claims of the woman – whose terrible content we decided not to mention – are true. For that, it would need a proper and thorough investigation, which has still not yet taken place, according to our source. Before we come to that claim, let us state that the very fact of this now nine-year-long stonewalling of an acknowledged abuse victim makes the victim’s claims perhaps more credible now than it would have been if there had been an immediate proper response on the part of the Catholic Church in England. Stonewalling raises suspicions. One may ask: what is still being kept secret or self-protective?

Our English source states that even the CDF’s investigation in 2011 – at the end of which Cardinal Nichols received a letter written by Cardinal Levada – did not make a thorough investigation of the case, inasmuch as the victim herself was not even personally interviewed by the CDF officials!

That is the very reason why, in 2013, Peter Doyle – the Bishop of Northampton who originally worked in Portsmouth and who knows the victim personally – “complained to Rome” and urged Nichols to restart the CDF investigation in 2013, according to our English source. As The Tablet so ambiguously puts it, the need to restart the case then was due to an “administrative gap.” That term “administrative gap” seems itself to serve as a form of cover-up of the real facts here. But what that “administrative gap” could be, is answered by our source: “The CDF itself had not followed protocol.”

The fact that, until 2013, this female victim’s claims still had not thoroughly been investigated according to protocols, is especially stunning in light of the fact that this female victim is advancing in age. Since she was 13 or 14 in the 1960s during the time of her abuse, she might now very well be in her 60s or 70s.

This very omission of these facts by The Tabletis misleading and it is even a tendentious distortion, as if Nichols himself had promptly taken the initiative with the CDF in 2013.

In light of these facts, it might be useful to ask Monsignor Robert Oliver – the CDF official who dealt with this case in Rome – as to whether he thinks that the proper protocol was followed at the time.

Let us thus restate that it was not Nichols himself, but the Bishops of Portsmouth and Northampton – who were dissatisfied with the way the CDF had handled the abuse case in 2011, especially in light of the fact that they never even met the victim in person – who induced Nichols to contact the CDF once more, in 2013.

However, that re-opening of the case now occurred when Cardinal Müller was the new Prefect of the CDF, and that was also when, in June of 2013, only two months after his papal election, Pope Francis “stormed” (by way of his cell phone) into the sacristy in order to tell Müller to stop the investigation of the allegations against Murphy-O’Connor.

As it happens, LifeSiteNews has now received an independent confirmation of that sudden event by a reliable and trustworthy source who has said: “Two and a half years ago, I spoke with someone who in 2013 worked closely in a particular capacity with one of the persons directly involved in that event [i.e, with either the Pope himself, or Cardinal Müller, or Müller’s own secretary who suddenly came in with the cell phone; LifeSiteNews knows which one of them it is]. He told me at the time that Pope Francis had called Cardinal Müller during his Mass and told him to stop the CDF investigation of the Murphy-O’Connor case.”
Since this source heard the story two and a half years ago, it is a good confirmation of Marco Tosatti’s own distinct source who himself was very close to the event, since he heard it from someone actually present at that event, as well.

Again, this event corroborates our own claim and concurs with the facts as they are now even confirmed by The Tabletitself, namely that the CDF ended the investigation in 2013, claiming that there was no case to answer.

Yet, this CDF ruling is now coming under further scrutiny in light of the fact that the victim herself was never interviewed by the CDF.

It has now also been confirmed by Damian Thompson, editor-in-chief of the British Catholic Herald, that there were “some English bishops” who were themselves “unhappy at Westminster breaking rules.” Thompson said on twitter on 30 September about The Tabletarticle: “This report is basically accurate. I believe in ++Cormac’s innocence. But this isn’t the whole story. Some English bishops unhappy at Westminster breaking rules; the CDF intervened. ++Mueller knows the truth.”

Yes, Cardinal Müller knows the truth. When LifeSiteNews reached out once more to his office with a request for comment, the request was then declined, and with an explicit justifying referral to the “pontifical secrecy,” a special code of protected confidentiality.

In any event, Damian Thompson thus confirms the essential story of LifeSiteNews, namely that there were English bishops who, bypassing the stonewalling Archdiocese of Westminster under Nichols, went to the CDF directly in order to receive a thorough investigation – which they still have not received.

Thus, it would be good if Bishop Hollis and Bishop Doyle could and would both make statements now as to why they intervened with the CDF, and as to whether they were content with the ruling of the CDF.

Additionally, Damian Thompson also confirmed that the 2013 event surrounding the papal phone call during Cardinal Müller’s Mass was indeed concerning the case of Cormac Murphy-O’Connor: “Yes. Mueller hasn’t denied that the cardinal was Cormac.”

It would also be helpful if those involved in the upcoming 12-13 November IICSA hearing of Cardinal Nichols concerning his time as the Bishop of Birmingham were to ask him some specific questions about this Murphy-O’Connor case – just to find out whether or not he is a trustworthy source in any of the other abuse cases. Nichols will be interviewed by Great Britain’s Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which is the same organization that only a few weeks ago requested from the Archdiocese of Westminster that they release all their files concerning the allegations against Murphy-O’Connor.

Damian Thompson himself certainly thinks that Nichols has to answer some important questions. On 26 September, he commented on Twitter, as follows: “Meanwhile, Cardinal Nichols should explain precisely how he handled the Cormac allegations. They may have lacked credibility, but there’s no indication that the Church’s abuse procedures were properly implemented. Far from it.”

Those who are admirers of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor should themselves be interested in a thorough investigation so as to have a strong proof of his innocence and integrity.

Another English source speaking with LifeSiteNews has also raised the question of an earlier allegation against Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, namely that in 2003 he had tried to pay some “hush money” to the abuser-priest, Michael Hill, while Hill was imprisoned.

Murphy-O’Connor had faced calls for his resignation when, in 2000, he initially defended himself as “not irresponsible” in his decision in the 1980s to move Hill to another location as a priest, even though his license as a priest had been previously suspended because of sexual abuse allegations. Hill later was imprisoned for five years because of sexual abuse of minors in 1997, and he was then once more to be imprisoned in 2002. One of his victims is that female victim who now makes the allegation that Murphy-O’Connor himself was personally involved in her abuse.

As one newspaper claimed in 2003, Murphy O’Connor’s auxiliary bishop, Howard Tripp, told Hill he would be given money, a house and any care that he needed in order to disappear. A prison source quoted in the article said: “The cardinal sent Tripp basically to buy his silence.” These allegations were later denied by Murphy-O’Connor, but the question remains as to why Tripp met Hill – which is a confirmed fact – and what, if true, was he trying to silence him for, since Hill’s own sexual abuse was then already known? Was Hill perhaps asked to remain silent about other people who were network complicitors in his abuse? Was he so leniently treated by his superior as an abusing priest because he knew too much?

There might be a good investigative journalist in England who could try to ask some questions to Father Michael Hill who should by now be out of prison and who himself might be an important witness in the context of the allegations against Murphy-O’Connor.

To end this report, let us recapitulate the important facts that we are dealing with here: once more we are also dealing with the foul form of self-protective clericalism that Pope Francis himself bemoans, but is seemingly not perceptibly acting to eradicate, or to mitigate – far from it. That is to say, we are dealing here with an already acknowledged victim of sexual abuse by a priest – Father Michael Hill. Moreover, she is the victim who then also made severe claims involving Murphy-O’Connor himself. When she did so, in 2009, she was stonewalled by his own Archdiocese of Westminster, “refusing” (in the specific words of our English source) to investigate her overall allegations according to the Church’s protocol, which would entail an outside investigation. Here, Cardinal Nichols and his aide, Bishop John Arnold, are to face and to take the responsibility for it.

It was then that two other English bishops intervened two (!) times with the CDF, with the result that Pope Francis personally intervened and stopped any further investigation.

And we are to believe that this woman’s claims were absolutely “incredible”? If she was so
incredible” in her claims, why did then the Pope so urgently need to interrupt a cardinal’s Holy Mass (which comes close to a sacrilege) in order to tell him to stop investigating Murphy-O’Connor? What was so urgent about this matter?

Is this not that very form of clericalism – i.e., high-ranking prelates protecting each other, at the expense of just and thorough investigations of victims whose lives have manifestly been maimed. It is also a form of clericalism that we are dealing with in the U.S., especially in the McCarrick case. Is it not so that Cardinal Nichols is here perhaps another “Cardinal Wuerl”? (That all of course depends, once more, upon the thorough investigation of the allegations against Murphy-O’Connor.)

And, as with the McCarrick case, also the Murphy-O’Connor case leaves questions open concerning the involvement of Rome in the matter.

When and how is this clearly corrupt, self-protective form of clericalism going to stop, to the extent that we can then trust that abuse allegations are being truly and justly investigated and justice is being rendered to those whose lives have been largely destroyed?

As our English source asks: “Who judges the judges?”